New Research Finds That Soda Taxes Reduce Consumption
Berkeley, CA residents reduced their intake of sugar-sweetened beverages by 52% in the three years after the city passed a soda tax in 2014, according to a new UC Berkeley study published in the American Journal of Public Health. The study also found a 29% increase in bottled water sales. The study suggests that Berkeley's model could work in other cities seeking to address the negative health consequences associated with sweetened soft-drinks.
SF Chronicle: “The research certainly suggests that taxes continue to have huge potential as a public health tool,” said Dr. Kristine Madsen, senior author of the paper and faculty director of the Berkeley Food Institute in UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health. “This is a major success in Berkeley.”
"Sodas and other sweetened beverages are the largest sources of sugar in American diets, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers said it will probably take a decade or more to show that soda taxes can lead to reduced obesity and related health problems, but evidence that people are drinking fewer beverages is a good start."
Research on Philadelphia's soda tax, however, suggests that some consumers are willing to travel a short distance to evade the tax. Studies found a 46% consumption decline in the city, but sales increases in nearby communities, suggesting some residents were willing to drive a few extra miles to purchase their soft-drinks. Still, even after factoring in those increases, the tax decreased over-all consumption by about 20%.
Moreover, the price increases may not be the only motivating factor in decreasing consumption long-term. The taxes send a powerful message about the negative health consequences associated with sweetened soft-drinks.
Science Daily: ... "price hikes may not be the only driving factor behind the change, Madsen says. Taxes also send a message about societal values, which can have a big impact on consumer behavior.
"There are some earlier studies out of Berkeley that suggest that the messaging alone is effective at reducing consumption," Madsen said."
Post Script: Mexico has seen a decline of about 8% in consumption of sweetened soft-drinks since a national tax was imposed in 2014.